Junk Food & Pregnancy


by Martin Leung

We’ve probably all heard tales of outlandish snack and junk food requests made by pregnant women.  Cravings may vary from woman to woman, but for the snack-loving expectant mother, there may be a new reason to fight junk food binging.

A new study suggests that women who eat snacks high in sugar and fat during their pregnancy might give birth to babies who will crave the same types of junk food.  That cupcake might be calling your sweet tooth now, but would you feed it to your baby?

Eating the right foods and sticking to a healthy diet helps child’s development during the pregnancy says registered dietician Stephanie Clarke, co-owner of C&J Nutrition and WellRounded NYC, a pre- and postnatal nutrition education program in Manhattan.

“It’s OK for pregnant women to includes ‘treats’ in their diets – and to prevent feeling deprived, it’s even important!” says Clarke, “The catch is, these treats (like chips, desserts, chocolate, ice cream …etc.) shouldn’t replace other healthful foods in the diet.”

In addition to not using snacks as a meal replacement, Clarke said a pregnant woman’s overall calorie intake is only 300 to 450 more than a non-pregnant woman’s daily needs.  Eating for two or more is no excuse to pack on unnecessary calories.

One easy way to indulge, guilt free, is to find healthier alternatives to your favorite snacks.

Megan Tubman, another registered dietician, the owner of Fresh Start Nutrition Studio, a Manhattan based pregnancy counseling service, recommends reading the ingredients list.

“Stay away from foods that have really long ingredient lists and ingredient lists you can’t even pronounce,” says Tubman. Here are some of her craftier ticks:

Eat healthy foods first, says Tubman. You’ll be full, and you can have a snack at the end as a reward.  Use smaller plates so you think you’re getting more.  Finally, don’t eat snacks when you are distracted. Eating ice cream from the pint while watching your favorite show won’t seem so sweet once you realize you ate more than you wanted to.

If all this talk may be stirring the cravings, now may be a good time to try out this “healthy alternative” thing:

Craving something sweet?

  • Have a cup of hot cocoa with skim milk or calcium fortified milk.  A cup made with 8 to 10 ounces of warm milk can count for a third of the recommended daily 1,300 milligrams of calcium.


  • Try some light ice cream.  It’s lower in calories and fat.  Plus light ice creams contain calcium, which helps the developing baby build strong bones; develop a healthy heart, nerves and muscles; and have a regular heart rhythm.

Looking for something savory, with a crunch?

  • Air-popped popcorn is a great way low-sodium snack that adds whole grains to your diet.  Whole grains are loaded with nutrients that supply energy for the developing baby and help build the placenta.


  • Try freeze-dried fruits.  They’re loaded with nutrients and they have less sugar.  Which means you can eat more of them and not have to worry about the calories.


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